Prologue from Writing While Female or Black or Gay


  Once upon a time when I was still part of the corporate world, I asked a woman who had risen to the rarified rank of corporate officer if she would tell me about her professional journey. This was early in my journey as an author, and I had taken a part-time position as a receptionist at the same firm. Clearly I had zero interest in climbing the corporate ladder, but I had every personal interest in hearing how a woman who was older than myself had managed to break through that ceiling.
  Perhaps my offer to take her to lunch for that purpose came as a complete surprise, because she readily agreed. She seemed relaxed when she said yes, so there was no reason for me to think that she wouldn’t be forthcoming. Reserved, of course, in the details that she offered, and definitely unwilling to reveal the trials she had undergone at that particular company, but open enough.
  It would be, I thought, a chance to hear a story of fortitude, cleverness and passion. For half an hour, we would be mentor and mentee, two women with high aspirations and the strength of will to see them through.
  She arrived at the front desk at the appointed time. She drove; her car was nicer and she had often eaten at the restaurant where we would share a meal. The usual office-related chitchat filled the time it took to settle at the table and place the order. The moment the waiter whisked away, she said, “I’m not sure what you’re hoping to hear but there isn’t much to tell.”
  The message was clear. She would feed me only what was readily available in her corporate bio and nothing more. There would be no revelatory guidance about the bumps she had encountered or the pathways she’d taken around those obstacles. The official façade would stand.
  When this book was conceived, I reached out to associates old and new. Their own journeys were varied; some had been published through traditional houses, some had struck out as indie authors. A handful had been published traditionally and then banded together to create their own publishing units to handle their new works. Many had never been published. Together, they represented the range of individuals addressed in this book, including the white male authors whose stories place diverse characters in prime positions.
  They were challenged to stand firm and speak clearly. All were offered anonymity and the chance to strip identifying details out of their stories. Many of the ones who have never received a publishing contract responded that they didn’t feel as if their experience was broad enough or involved enough to speak to the issue. Some never replied. And among the ones who did reply, some flinched.
  There was the woman who had risen to the top of a publishing company who responded in a thoughtful voice that carried meaningful messages. As the book was being written, she adjusted her messages so that they stepped back from a direct challenge to the broader industry. Then, as the book entered production, she asked that her contributions be struck entirely.
  There were the lesbian woman and the gay man who separately said their experiences didn’t count because they had been successful in traditional publishing arenas. And so, even though they had faced obstacles, sharing their journeys would not, they felt, be helpful.
  There was the man who judged the unflinching way issues are addressed in this work as the type of “feminist” work that denigrated the entire male gender.
  There was the transgender woman who responded through an associate to say that she would not be contributing.
  There was the female fantasy author, one with exceptional talent whose career spanned nearly as many years as mine, who declined to participate because her voice would carry no weight without the validation of a publishing contract to boost her position.
  All of them spoke the truth, their truth.
  There were also individuals who were not invited to participate. During my own journey, I have reached out countless times for advice, assistance or support. A surprising number of those requests were fulfilled in ways that can only be seen as deliberately undermining. The world of publishing, like any other endeavor, can be cutthroat. That, too, speaks to the private truths those individuals hold.
  When considering the form Writing While Female or Black or Gay would take, a book was clearly the best choice. It became a book, rather than a series of blog entries or several longform articles, specifically so that it could be heard within the industry and among readers. Nothing has power like a collection of words held between covers. Nothing has appeal like the ability to read, to savor, to reread.
  Nothing has the ability to change the status quo like words passed from one reader to another, words that can be stored and revisited, lingered over, captured as a quote for duplication, excised as a chapter for study, reprinting, and posting, words that can fly around the world at record speed and speak in the quiet moments directly, intimately, profoundly.
  A book is not an article that is to be read and passed beyond in the wash of daily life. It is not a tweet to be snapped up and as quickly allowed to snap out of awareness. It is not a picture or a post that provides only an emotional impact. Although it might contain all these things, a book is more.
  It is a counselor and advisor, a place where people can turn for advice. It creates a space in which thoughts can engage and a mind can expand. It is the seed of something larger and infinitely more powerful, the alpha of the omega, a treasure in a box.
  Words and language give every one of us the ability to speak and, critically, to be heard. And because what we say and how we speak empower us with the ability to be seen, a book can birth a revolution.
  Join hands and join the revolution that can help make humanity whole.

  Just turn the page.

Laine "caves in castles on the hill, roasts the big name publishers (and so called liberal literary magazines as well) and discusses topics that are poisonous for new writers – unless they be young white males (and even there she has some pointers that are laugh out loud funny)."
--Hall of Fame Reviewer


"Eye opening guide...I was glad the Laine Cunningham wrote this book ... First, to expose this mentality. ... Second, the book was funny and encouraging to authors, even while talking about the brutal truth of being overlooked. If you're an author who has an "unusual" background, read this book. It will help you understand what you're up against." 

--S. Clem


"If you’re a reader, read this. If you’re an author, new or old, who is female or black or gay (or minority or LGBT or even a plain ol’ white guy – there’s stuff in there for you too), then you need to read this.
This book will take you on a journey that is so rip-roariously funny, so hilariously true, that you might only realize afterwards just how depressing it is. ...
As an author, I really appreciate Cunningham’s perspective. Her truths are my own, though I don’t have nearly the experience she has. The struggle is real, and Cunningham puts it all out there – raw and real and with a heaping helping of sarcasm to make it all go down a little easier.
But she doesn’t leave the reader on the floor. No, she encourages writers to write what they want. ... Only when the collective voices of the readers is loud enough, and the outcry against stereotypes strong enough can we hope to start to shift the dynamic."

--Angel Leya

Laine Cunningham

Author Quoted on CNN's Money

Author Quoted on FoxNews.com

​Author Quoted on MSNBC.com

Author Quoted in Writer's Weekly

​Consultant for NC Writer's Network

Freelance Writer for The Writer ​

Instructor for The Loft Literary Center

​​Freelance Writer for Byline

Judge for Minnesota State Arts Council

Judge for The Blotter's ​Fiction Contest

​Regional Rep, National Writer's Union

Freelance, NPR's ​Minnesota Monthly